Bruce Arena hopes the New England Revolution can contend again this season but is placing little stock in 2020 results due to the unique circumstances surrounding the campaign.
The Revs reached the Eastern Conference Final despite finishing eighth in the regular season.
In the playoffs, they lost to eventual MLS Cup champions the Columbus Crew, who came out on top following a tumultuous season in which coronavirus disrupted the usual schedule.
Arena knows New England will be expected to build on their postseason run but was unwilling to draw too many conclusions from "an odd year".
"We're certainly excited to start the season," Arena said. "Last year was an anomaly - I don't think that'll ever happen again.
"Whatever occurred competitively last season, I applaud the teams that experienced success but I think it was such an odd year it's unlikely we'll see those kind of results in 2021.
"I think this year will be very challenging.
"Is there pressure on us? Sure, we're a professional team and our goal is to win trophies. Any time you position yourselves to do that, you face pressure."
Week one opponents the Chicago Fire will certainly hope 2021 is very different, having won just five times and missed the playoffs.
But coach Raphael Wicky felt his team were not far away in many matches.
"The biggest thing is that we convert these moments, these good games into victories, that we don't bring teams back into the games with easy mistakes," he said.
"That's something we want to work on, we have to work on."
Chicago Fire - Robert Beric
Chicago outscored several playoff teams in 2020 and, without significant defensive reinforcements, will likely again need to go on the offensive to enjoy an upturn in form. Beric was far and away the Fire's leading marksman with 12 goals and must perform once more.
New England Revolution - Carles Gil
The Revs were without talisman Gil for much of last season, but he returned to show his talents in the playoffs. Of the five postseason goals New England scored, Gil netted one and assisted three. A big role this year should see an improved Eastern Conference finish.
- The Revs won 2-1 at Soldier Field in September, ending a nine-match winless run in Chicago. It was only New England's second win in their past 21 visits to Chicago dating back to 2006. The Revs have never won two in a row in Chicago.
- The Fire are winless in their past 11 season-opening matches, tied with Colorado (1996-2007, excluding breakaway shootouts) for the longest streak in MLS history. The Fire's last opening day win was a 3-1 victory over FC Dallas in 2009.
- New England is winless in its past seven season-opening matches (D2 L5), the second-longest active run behind only the Fire's 11 straight. The Revs' most recent first-day win came in Chicago, a 1-0 victory to begin the 2013 campaign.
- Beric scored 10 goals after the MLS regular season resumed in August, tied with Seattle's Raul Ruidiaz for the most in the league following the restart.
- Teal Bunbury scored a team-high eight goals for the Revs last season. It was the first time in Bunbury's 11-year MLS career that he was his team's outright leading scorer in a season (tied with Omar Bravo and Kei Kamara with nine in the 2011 season with Kansas City).
Updated April 16, 2021